Newtown Township

Planning Commission 

February 7, 2006


MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING – 02/07/06: Chairman Ward opened the meeting by asking if there were any changes or corrections to the minutes of the previous meeting and when no issues were brought to the table, all members approved the minutes, with the exception of Shannon Wilson who abstained.

Chairman Ward made the following changes to the Agenda for this meeting:


Attendees: Chairman Shawn Ward and members, Jay Sensibaugh, Jim Bowe, Frank Mendicino and Mike Piazza. Also present were Solicitor Paul Beckert, Township Planner Judy Stern Goldstein, Public Works Director Tom Harwood and Matt Johnson, Traffic Engineer. Members Shannon Wilson, Beth Sanderlin, Alan Fidler and Vice Chairman Vince Lombardi were excused.

CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Ward called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m.

1. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING – 01/17/06: Chairman Ward noted that there was one change to the Minutes of the meeting held on January 17, 2006, as follows: Those parties listed as attending the January 17th meeting is revised to delete Steve Harris as Solicitor and replace him with Paul Beckert. With this correction, the minutes were approved and accepted by all parties attending this meeting, as listed above.

Chairman Ward also noted that he had failed to appoint a liaison to the Environmental Advisory Counsel and that Jay Sensibaugh would serve (under item g. of paragraph 6).

2. TRAFFIC ENGINEER’S REPORT:

Matt Johnson handed out the February report and mentioned that there were not a lot of new items; he would leave the report with everyone to read it over.

5. Newtown Bypass (413) Buck Road Richboro Road Improvement Project

Matt Johnson mentioned that there was a rumor circulating that PENDOT had appointed a consultant to do a traffic responsive system study on the Newtown Bypass; that has been done. Fleming on the PENDOT staff is doing open-ended contract work and doesn’t know if the schedulefor this had been posted. Advised that later this year it should be completed and then the township would be able to implement that program on the bypass.

Jay Sensibaugh mentioned a TIP completion date and some regional traffic meetings that he had attended. He asked Matt if he had heard of that date, which he hadn’t but Matt agreed to confirm it for him

7. Overlay at intersection of Durham Road Newtown Shopping Center

Matt Johnson advised that a quite a bit of work has been done in this area over the past couple of years to increase safety there, recently overlaid and an advance left turn signal has been added.

Matt Johnson mentioned that the U-Turn Prohibition on Mill Pond Road near Buck Road was on the Traffic Department meeting agenda for tomorrow night. The Traffic Department has looked into this problem and submitted an analysis to the Township. Jay Sensibaugh asked how far back from the intersection on each of the roads would Matt Johnson recommend that the ordinance be drafted to prohibit u-turns? 100 feet back? He advised that he understood the problem was not just at the intersection, but further back on Mill Pond Road. Chairman Ward mentioned that there was an island that stretched back down Mill Pond Road and Matt Johnson advised that the notification would be posted at the end of that island. Jay Sensibaugh requested the length of the prohibition so that when drafting the ordinance, the concerns of everyone would be meet --- 200 feet would meet those concerns.

Matt Johnson noted that the Traffic Department was coordinating with PENDOT to make sure that those right turn lanes they promised would be completed. The one on the Bypass at Richboro is complete and during the next construction season PENDOT will be doing the one at Buck Road in both directions. Jim Bowe asked if the no turn on right still applied at Richboro Road and Matt Johnson confirmed that it did. Matt noted that it had to be taken down and Jim Bowe added that it created a terrible backup, especially with school buses, when the Junior High School let out.

Matt Johnson further commented that there have been discussions in the past about some studies that have been going on, but the Traffic Department is not directly involved with them. There is one study on Stoopville Road that was discussed at the Board of Supervisors Work Session in January. He anticipates that in February they are going to be discussing the recommendations at South Eagle and Swamp Roads.

Matt Johnson advised that nothing new had been going on with the TIP process. It was still being reviewed, but comments and everything else were being put together and anticipates that a draft TIP will be issued in May or June. He noted that hopefully something that the Traffic Department had submitted would appear in that draft, unlike 2 years ago. For next year’s report, Jay Sensibaugh asked when the Planning Commission physically needed to begin to formalize the roadway improvement schedule request. Matt responded that the TIP process only took place every 2 years, so there was nothing to do this year. Chairman Ward didn’t want it to sneak up on the Planning Commission, but Matt Johnston noted that the Transportation Hearings had to come first. Things happened much earlier this year than in the past – State was in the middle of August as opposed to the September, 2 years ago. Chairman Ward and Judy Stern Goldstein expressed concern about getting letters and paperwork too late to act on. Jay Sensibaugh expressed his concern about having enough time to incorporate funding issues. Matt Johnson suggested that plans should be put together in the beginning of the summer – not this June, but next.

Mike Piazza brought up a problem at Sycamore and Jefferson Streets. Motorists coming down Sycamore toward Buck Road, to avoid the traffic light, are going through the parking lot of the Township House Restaurant. They are also doing this when coming down Jefferson Street towards Sycamore if they see the light is red and there is a line of cars. The parking lot is small and motorists are speeding through it. Jay Sensibaugh, Matt Johnson and Jim Bowe concurred that it was an enforcement problem. Mike Piazza noted that Pam and Joe (Owners of the Township House Restaurant) had called Marty Guthrie about the problem and one motorist received a summons. However, the motorist beat it in court saying that they were only looking to see if the restaurant was open. Mike Piazza suggested that Pam/Joe install speed bumps, but that would be at the expense of the property owner and not the township. Matt Johnson asked if there was an excessive wait at the light or if people were just in hurry. It was agreed that the light at Jefferson Street was quick, only allowing 3 or 4 vehicles through at a time. Matt Johnson agreed to look at the problem if the Planning Commission would make a recommendation. Discussion continued about the impact on traffic in that area, particularly the slowing up of traffic on Sycamore Street. Mike Piazza suggested the installation of rubber pipes so motorists could not make the left turn into the parking lot. That way they would have to make the left on Jefferson Street and then into the restaurant parking lot. Matt Johnson asked if this problem arose at any particular time and Mike Piazza responded that it continually occurred. Chairman Ward suggested that the Board ask the Police Chief to put a detail on the situation first. They could see how much of a problem it was and if enforcement was not enough, the Traffic Department could see if there was anything they could do to resolve it.

Matt Johnson asked if he was needed in the review of any of the ordinances and Chairman Ward said “no”. Matt Johnson mentioned that Christian would be attending future meetings and could he receive advance notice, if he was needed. All agreed.

3. REVIEWS:

Ordinance – 2006-03 – Zoning Map Amendment PS-2 to R2

Chairman Ward opened the discussion by saying that this ordinance had been reviewed and sent to our Board with the recommendation that they send it to the Jointure and now, it was back for approval, non-approval or any changes. Wrightstown had some concerns about the ordinance and Chairman Ward originally understood that they were not willing to approve it. However, in a letter from Terry Clemons, Wrightstown’s Solicitor the last paragraph refers to approval “in a spirit of cooperation” and now it has come back to us.

Chairman Ward asked Paul Beckert for an overview of the ordinance. Mr. Beckert advised there is a pending application by McGrath waiting for something to happen on this. All it does is change the R-2 with the understanding that contemporaneous with its approval this over 55 housing, which meets the R-2 schedule. He thought there had already been extensive discussion over this and that everyone in Newtown Township was on board with the concept, as a matter of consensus. This goes back years when it was CM and when the municipal complex sat here, the people across the street said CM wasn’t any good. He spoke with Steve Harris who said what had come in, as proposed office development never seemed to comply with any conceptual plan that made any sense. When turned away, the question of what was going to be done with this land was left – no one appeared to have a good plan to go forward. In the PS-2 district there is going to be a concern about the lights. Once there is a summary of where we are on this moved to the State and the final push through the Jointure, McGrath is ready to move. It just changes the zoning to R-2 for that purpose.

Judy Stern Goldstein advised that the surrounding area was already R-2. Paul Beckert asked about having the B-17 incorporated into the R-2 and Ms. Goldstein advised that the B-17 is only permitted use for the R-2 district. She further noted that Wrightstown was looking for it to be an R-1 instead of R-2.

Chairman Ward supported the adoption of the ordinance, noting that the Upper Makefield Planning Commission recommended approval to the Upper Makefield Board and the Wrightstown Planning Commission made no changes in the ordinance. He stated that it appeared to be a good fit for that area.

Jim Bowe asked about leaving the parcel across the street alone or modifying that also. Judy Stern Goldstein noted that that property has been left alone. There was some confusion about the actual location of the property in question, but Chairman Ward clarified with respect to the corner piece of property that there would be a reconfiguration in a little bit of a land swap, so the piece would fit better. Mike Piazza asked if it was commercial property right now and Chairman Ward responded saying the corner would stay professional in the reconfiguration – a small piece on each side on 413.

Jay Sensibaugh had some difficulty with the language associated with the change, but Judy Stern Goldstein noted that it was merely a map amendment.

Mike Piazza raised the question of having to do a traffic study and July Stern Goldstein noted that one had already been done as a part of that subdivision land development.

Jay Sensibaugh motioned to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they approve the ordinance. Jim Bowe seconded the motion.

Frank Mendicino restated the question of the B-17, saying that there had been conversations at the Supervisor’s meeting late last year about this. Judy Stern Goldstein confirmed that there had been 3 submissions over B-17 zones: 1) This ordinance; 2) Hovnanian Conditional Use; and, 3) the Robert Fidler Tract where they were looking at something like a B-17, without the age restriction. Frank Mendicino asked if, as a municipality, would we have the ability to say yes or no to any particular use of the property. Judy Stern Goldstein responded that it is permitted only as a conditional use and it have to come through the planning commission; they would have to demonstrate whether or not they have the conditions required for conditional use.

Mike Piazza asked if the tract on this side was part of this change and Judy Stern Goldstein responded no, because the applicant did not include that tract; it is not part of the land holdings.

Frank Mendicino wanted to know what would stop the planning commission from changing it and Jay Sensibaugh responded “Nothing”. Further, Jay Sensibaugh said that the question would become the landholder’s position about the zoning changes for his parcel of land and that he was reluctant to change the landowners zoning without some reason to do so.

Someone asked Tom Harwood if he saw any problem with this change. Mr. Harwood said his only concern with a small tract of land like this, that is was not likely to be developed for what the larger zone was intended. Although the parcels are actually part of this petition, the tract closest to Newtown Grant on this side is right across from the township building. He asked if they were actually a part of this petition. Chairman Ward confirmed with Mary Ellen Saylor, of Pickering Corts and Summerson, that there were actually 4 parcels in this petition.

Jim Bowe raised the argument of someone potentially buying the PS-2 property, not having enough land to develop it and asking to convert some of the CM around it. Judy Stern Goldstein responded that with today’s zoning there would be no bearing on someone’s future use of that property. Jim Bowe understood, but feared that someone might accuse them of creating this zoning and making the property useless. Then he anticipated someone asking for all kinds of variances or being allowed to extend into the CM area. Judy Stern Goldstein stated that single family detached is a permitted use on 1 acre and other uses are 40,000 sq. ft.; the lot is 5 acres, so the argument would not apply.

Chairman Ward called for a vote and it was approved unanimously – motion carried.

b. JMZO No. 2006-01 – Group Homes Regulations

Judy Stern Goldstein advised that this had been tabled on December 6, 2005 pending correction to the language to bring our current regulations defining family and community treatment facilities/group homes into compliance with current federal regulations and ADA Fair Housing Act. This has gone through many changes – Wrightstown recommended changes to it, Upper Makefield tabled it until Wrightstown recommended approval, this group tabled it and BCPC made some changes – and everything has now been incorporated into the wording. The end result is necessary to meet current regulations. Wrightstown wanted to put a lot of regulations in about monitoring people in the community treatment facilities, but that was beyond the scope of zoning and was not included in the language.

Jay Sensibaugh motioned to recommend approval to the Board of Commissioners and Jim Bowe seconded the motion.

Chairman Ward advised that he had no objections to the ordinance and opened the floor to discussion.

Jim Bowe asked if it was lot size or gross side area and Judy Stern Goldstein responded that it was lot size. She further stated that the minimum lot size for C15 was 10 acres.

Mike Piazza stated that under C15 #8, it appears that this goes in hand with the law that state you have to identify sex offenders and child molestors. Judy Stern Goldstein noted that that was a separate item. Further she advised that the language in this ordinance is general language addressing health and safety of other individuals and property, not dealing in sexual predator terms. The ordinance says you cannot house people that would be a direct threat to the community.

Paul Beckert noted that the issue of sexual predators was scheduled for discussion at tomorrow night’s meeting.

Chairman called for a vote and the motion was approved by all.

c. JMZO No. 2006-02 – Accessory Contractor or Trade Uses

Judy Stern Goldstein advised this ordinance was originated by Wrightstown Township. It is not dealing with issues in Newtown Township as much as it is with issues in Wrightstown Township and, to a lesser degree, Upper Makefield. It has not come back to with board with all of the townships’ recommendations. Frank Mendicino asked why is didn’t necessarily apply to Newtown Township and Chairman Ward responded that it only applied to the CM zoning district in Newtown.

Judy Stern Goldstein continued stating that the ordinance was dealing with lot area of 5 to 10 acres and when the Planning Commission before reviewed it, there was a concern over lot area of 1 acre.

Chairman Ward noted that this was not a vote on the actual amendment, but an input of recommendations so everyone could review it again. Judy Stern Goldstein stated that in some of the Wrightstown meetings she had attended, neither 5 nor 10 acres was agreeable and it really came down to individual properties and problems with parking commercial vehicles on them.

Chairman Ward and Judy Stern Goldstein advised Frank Mendicino that the R-1 and R-2 districts were not included in this. Therefore, this ordinance really did not affect Newtown Township, except in some CM districts.

Jay Sensibaugh advised that he was comfortable with 300 sq. ft. for vehicle storage and 10 acres.

Jim Bowe asked if this would currently affect anyone, but Chairman Ward felt they would be grandfathered in.

Tom Harwood asked what zones did this ordinance apply to (because he did not have a copy of the ordinance) and Judy Stern Goldstein advised that it applied in the CM, CR-1, RIA and R-1 zones. Jay Sensibaugh added that it was not permitted in the R-1 zone already.

Jim Bowe noted that he had a problem with the limit set on outside storage space and suggested making it proportional to the property size. Judy Stern Goldstein noted that it was already limited to 2 vehicles.

Frank Mendicino wanted to know if it would affect anyone currently in the township and Judy Stern Goldstein advised, “it could”.

Paul Beckert noted that there were 3 areas that the other townships wanted input on: 1) 5 or 10 acres or some variation; 2) how much sq. footage for storage would be permitted; and, 3) how many trucks would be allowed to make deliveries during daylight hours. Chairman Ward responded by saying that the 300 sq. ft. should be increased and the 5 acres is adequate. He further noted that the fundamental concept of a Commonwealth is that a resident can do what he wants with his property.

(A gentleman seated in the public section) raised the issue of a noise factor and said that it really did not affect the use, as much as the noise or disturbance created by the use.

Mike Piazza motioned that the Planning Commission reject the entire ordinance on the grounds that it was too restrictive. Frank Mendicino seconded the motion and it was opened up to discussion.

Jay Sensibaugh suggested a modification arguing with the stipulations in the ordinance now except for any exposure in existence now being grandfathered. Everyone rebutted this, citing problems that would occur with requests for variances.

Chairman Ward made the following comments to support the motion: 1) Proximity to side and front/rear lot lines (although front lot lines are already stated); and, 2) Maximum size of storage area is too small because it is not relative to the size of the lot; size should be a percentage. He then called for a vote and the motion passed 4 to 1 with Jay Sensibaugh opposing it.

d. JMZO No. 2006-10 – Open Space

Chairman Ward indicated that this was a new ordinance originated by Upper Makefield trying to identify if open space is passive recreation or active recreation. It states that the open space is designed for the use and enjoyment of the residents in the residential development. You cannot give them land that is left over and designate it as open space, when the land is not usable. Ordinance number is 2006-10 and it has been discussed at the Regional Planning meeting.

Jay Sensibaugh noted that it is also part of the tool kit in dealing with Toll on the Melsky Tract that will be coming up.

Judy remarked that it is a philosophical issue in that there are 2 ways to look at open space: 1) it is the land that can be seen, but cannot be touched, i.e. farmland that is not a part of the residential area; or, 2) it is recreational land. Newtown has taken the more common thinking that parks and recreation areas are included in open space as an important part of the open space network. This ordinance puts recreation space out of the general definition of open space and attempts to define it separately.

Paul Beckert asked if this has anything to do with a wet or dry basin and Judy Stern Goldstein responded, “it is excluded”. Mike Piazza stated that a golf course could be open space and there appeared to be a general consensus. However, Judy Stern Goldstein went on to say not if you read section 254 in the ordinance which talks about open space excluding land for agriculture, research protection, required open space for recreation, open roads, road rights of way, yards, dwelling units, parking areas or recreation areas required by the township. Jay Sensibaugh stated that he felt they were trying to isolate the open space and then assign a recreation space separately in addition to the open space.

Chairman Ward asked if the board wanted to send it back with comments or to table it for future discussion. Frank Mendicino asked what zoning district(s) would it affect in Newtown and Judy Stern Goldstein felt it would affect all districts. The question of the difference between the definition now and as proposed in the ordinance arose and Chairman Ward suggested getting a “Tract Change” copy. Everyone agreed, but Judy Stern Goldstein noted that it would eliminate active/passive open space and adopt active/passive recreation space; again, a philosophical issue. Frank Mendicino indicated that this might reduce the number of houses in a development, but Mike Piazza noted that it doesn’t change the amount of open space required. Jay Sensibaugh stated that it could change the site calculation, increasing the amount of land devoted to recreation and open space, but Chairman Ward said he hadn’t seen that contiguous requirement in the ordinance.

Jim Bowe motioned to table Ordinance 2006-10 until receipt of the “Tract Change” information. Mike Piazza seconded the motion and all approved it. Chairman confirmed with Paul Beckert that he would request the “Tract Change” document.

4. SUBCOMMITTEE AND LIAISON REPORTS:

a. Board of Supervisors

b. Newtown Area Regional Planning Commission - Next meeting on Thursday, February 16, 2006

c. Joint Zoning Council – No report was presented.

d. Sycamore Street – Committee has not yet met on this issue

e. Historic Architectural Review Board – Meeting schedule for next week

f. Park and Recreation Board – No report

g. Environmental Advisory Council – Mr. Sensibaugh discussed the following 2 items:

i) Echo Star award and local businesses involved in good environmental activities should be directed to submit an application which can be found on the website for Newtown Township (www.twp.newtown.pa.us); and

ii) Riverkeepers study of the Newtown Creek. Grant money for repairs. Based on the recommendations of the Environmental Council who is developing the grant and submitting it. A Department site visit is scheduled at 10:00 a.m. on February 13, 2006 for approval of the grant.

h. Plan Expirations – Everything is OK

5. CORRESPONDENCE: A copy of the Solicitor’s Report was provided to each attendee, along with a copy of the Newtown Corporate Center’s Final Land Development approval letter.

6. OLD BUSINESS: Nothing to discuss

7. NEW BUSINESS: Chairman Ward presented PC-2206-01 calling for the Establishment of a Policy/Procedure for Plan Review, to all attendees. He noted that he was not looking to stifle any input, but merely to streamline the review process. Jay Sensibaugh added that the streamlining should occur at the preliminary stage of the process. The discussion moved to the use of electronic documents, but Jay Sensibaugh noted that there would have to be grant money to update to an electronic system.

The resolution was table to be reactivated at the next meeting.

8. GENERAL DISCUSSION: None

9. ADJOURNMENT: The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 p.m.

 

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Submitted by: Susan M. Dalman, Recording Secretary